The most charitable thing that can be said about DC Films’ slate of movies so far is that they’ve made money. It should have been obvious from the moment Zack Snyder was handed the keys to the universe we all should have been a bit more skeptical of what was to come. But, alas, many of us lifelong DC fans naively clung to hope. Obviously, the folly of such hope has now been plainly writ in three increasingly dumb, bafflingly incoherent films. Each of which is bad for so many reasons (writing, directing, acting, tone, plot, editing, etc.) it’s hard to nail just one down. But that’s just what Patrick (H) Willems aims to do in his new video essay, “DC Films’ Character Problem.”
The 12-minute video starts off with the basics: screenwriting 101. Over the course of three ridiculously long films, not a single “well-defined character” is ever introduced. A well-defined character, of course, being one with clear motivation, definable growth, and some semblance of a personality. The argument he makes is that audiences are going to show up because they like previous versions of Superman and Batman, but the new universe has failed to give any reason to like these versions. Which, is really what an extended universe rests upon. Odds are, one reason people are going to show up for “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” aside of Spider-Man’s enduring appeal, is the known, heavily marketed presence of the Robert Downey Jr.’s fan-favorite Iron Man.
From there Willems takes the time to directly compare Downey Jr.’s first turn as Iron Man with “Man Of Steel,” noting just how clear Tony Stark’s character arc is (he is selfish and egotistical, he is captured by baddies, learns empathy, tries to redeem himself and become a good person) and how utterly nonexistent Superman’s is (starts good, ends good, always seems to dislike being good).
The hope then is left with “Wonder Woman.” Right now it’s easy to be cynical about the forthcoming film, but admittedly Patty Jenkins is a director that actually has some experience telling solid stories and building real characters. So, we’re keeping our fingers crossed.
Check out “DC Films’ Character Problem” essay and weigh in with your thoughts on the extended universe below.